Air Force has apparently not been happy with its four new IL 76 AWACS (A-50s
from Russia, converted to Chinese KJ2000 radar systems) and smaller systems
carried in the Chinese made Y8 aircraft. This is because the air force has been
spotted outfitting a Boeing 737-800 airliner as an AWACS aircraft. There may be
as many as three of the 737 AWACS.
The KJ2000 was expected to
enter service this year. China has had to develop its own phased array radar
for it, after being prevented, by the United States, from buying the Israeli
Phalcon airborne radar six years ago. The Y8 based KJ2000 carries a flight crew
of five and a mission (AWACS) crew of about a dozen. The aircraft can stay
airborne for about seven hours per sortie. The KJ2000 radar has a range of
about 300 kilometers, and the computer systems are supposed to be able to
handle 5-10 fighters at a time, and keep track of several dozen enemy targets.
The 54 ton propeller driven Y8
(which is based on the Russian An-12) and 157 ton Il-76 jet are apparently
considered less reliable, and more expensive to maintain, than the twin engine,
79 ton, Boeing 737-800. Chinese airlines (some of them controlled by the
Chinese Air Force) have been using the 737-800 since 1999 (a year after this
model entered service).